FIU running back Anthony Jones, who has played just six of a possible 26 games the past two years, said there’s a reason why he came back for his redshirt senior season.
“I felt I needed one more year to help build my game, up my stock [for a shot at pro football],” said Jones, who is gearing up for FIU’s season-opener on Aug. 29 at Tulane. “I want to take it over the edge this year.”
Jones missed the entire 2017 season because of a knee injury and then last year miraculously survived a random drive-by-shooting that cost him half the campaign. He was shot in the back, FIU offensive lineman Mershawn Miller was struck in the arm, and both are grateful to be healthy and on the field for a new year.
But when former FIU teammate Emmanuel Lubin died on July 21 due to a one-car crash on the Florida Turnpike, Jones was grief-stricken.
“I ask God to lift his family’s spirits because I know when I went through my situation how my family was feeling,” Jones said. “I thank God that I’m still here and blessed to play the game I love.”
Jones said he has told the story of his shooting to the kids he meets at community-service events.
“I never had no beef with nobody,” Jones said of the shooting that occurred on Sept. 6 in Opa-Locka. “That was just wrong place, wrong time. You can’t do nothing about that.
“When I visit a school, the kids pay close attention. Everybody’s got their story, but when it happens to you first hand, people understand you more. It comes off different. People actually feel what I’m saying.
“I just let them know I believed in God and battled every day.”
Jones, who is set to graduate in December with a Bachelor’s degree in sports management, has known Miller since they were five years old, playing on the Miami Gardens Chargers youth-league team. They’ve always been tight, and their families are close as well, but now that bond is stronger than ever.
Miller, battling to be part of FIU’s lineman rotation, would love to open large holes this year for Jones, who has rushed for 1,374 yards, a 5.9 average and 12 touchdowns in 29 career games.
As for Jones’ future whenever he is done playing, he said he wants to be a sportscaster.
“I love football so much,” Jones said. “I just want to talk about football even when I’m an older man.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Panthers have added Arkansas to their future schedule, agreeing to play at Fayetteville on Nov. 18, 2023.
▪ FIU coach Butch Davis is excited about freshman Julius Pearce, a 6-5, 245-pound tight end in high school at Sanford Seminole who was recruited as a center. He is now up to 287 pounds while retaining much of his 4.8 speed, according to Davis.
“We told him during the recruiting process, ‘You can be spectacular as a center with the athleticism of a tight end’,” Davis said.
▪ Of the 106 players on the FIU roster, 86 are from Florida. Georgia is second with four FIU players.